How I Learned to Ask People For Money and Like Getting It

I don’t know if you’ve met Roula, but she’s adding to her portfolio great results as 350 Sac’s Development Director. She is a money magnet! I’ve never been much into asking people for money, kind of a pride thing I guess, and getting turned down didn’t seem that appealing, so I left it alone. But this year I started seeing reports about 350 fund campaigns and donations. To tell the truth the CAP Team might need some cash, so I thought I’d lurk at one of the fund groups’ meetings and see what they were up to. Well, it wasn’t a big meeting, kind of low on participants if you know what I mean, but Roula was real enthusiastic, talking about how great peer-to peer fundraising is, and wouldn’t I like to help with something called #GivingTuesday.

I got a little hypnotized or something because I kind of said I would, and anyway it was almost a month away, so what the hey. Well next thing you know it was only a couple weeks away, so I started thinking about who I could ask who wouldn’t hate me, and pulled together my contact lists, and put them in a cool spreadsheet and sorted them into groups – people I knew through climate work, or faith group buddies, or other friends, and it looked really nice and organized. Then I wrote a basic message (Roula had a template to get me going), about how I was volunteering, and what Giving Tuesday is about; and how 350 Sacramento could use a few bucks if they could spare it; and what I was donating myself and maybe they could too; and so forth. Then I tweaked it a little for each group, and started down my list, one group at a time.

Man, was it tedious! I’d send the first email for each group, then make a few little changes for each person down the list and forward it. I included a “thank you” sentence and made sure to mention for each friend a good thing that they were doing, so they’d know it was really me and not a robot in Turlock or someplace. It took maybe four minutes for each one. I figured we wouldn’t get much, so to sweeten the pot I said I’d match donations up to a certain amount, so that was that.

Well, first thing that happened, Roula called to say thank you very much for your donation. When Roula thanks you, you know you’ve been thanked, so that was cool. And the next thing that happened, Roula started leaving me messages about how much my emails were bringing in, and each time it was more, and that was cool, and in the end it was thirteen hundred bucks, and Roula called everyone who donated to thank them personally. And not just my friends. Everyone. Like fifty sincere, grateful calls in a day. That’s a lot of gratitude. If you got one of those calls you know what I mean.

Anyway, it blew me away that my little list of friends had come through like that, so since they were so generous what could I do but raise my match amount. And I heard that Roula scored a really big donations through calls she made on her own, so the total for the Giving Tue was about $7,500, and we‘ve already got more than twice the donations we got last year, and now Roula’s planning a holiday drive too.

And then I got it. If you ask people who trust you to help out with something you believe in, and they do too, they’ll give you money, and appreciate that you asked. And we can use that money to goose up our activism. Which we sure need to do.

But get this: the peer-to-peer team was small. Really small. So imagine what we could do with a BIG team; each person with a little list and a few hours to work it. So next time we do a fund campaign, maybe think about pitching in. Then sit back and watch the money roll in. Try it, you’ll like it. Just sayin’.


Written by Oscar B.

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